A victim of a tourist driver has offered “a cup of tea and a hug” in place of a restorative justice meeting, if the Taiwanese driver ever returns to New Zealand.
The woman did not seek any emotional harm reparations, but offered her condolences to the driver and her family, at the sentencing in the Christchurch District Court.
Chia-Fang Chu, 39, of Kaoshiung City, Taiwan, appeared in court last week and admitted charges of careless driving causing the death of Fu-Hwa Ju, her father, and injury to Mei-Yu Chu Yeh, her mother.
Chu’s mother is now out of hospital and with the sentencing completed today, the family can now return toTaiwan to arrange the funeral rites for the father.
Chu’s mother said in her translated statement to the court that the father’s ashes were still awaiting burial. Under Taiwanese tradition, the delay meant that her daughter was seen as “being disrespectful to the incomplete family”.
When the case was called today, Chu also pleaded guilty to a third charge that the police had just laid concerning injuries caused to a person in the car she ran into at the Templeton intersection where she drove through a stop sign on February 18. She had stopped at a railway crossing, but failed to stop again at the stop sign just beyond it.
The woman driver of the other vehicle was the only occupant. She walked away from the crash with considerable bruising, but has since seen her doctor about continuing pain and discomfort.
Judge Tony Couch ordered Chu to pay $2000 reparations to the other driver.
Defence counsel Josh Lucas had told the court that no restorative justice meeting had been held, but the other driver suggested that if Chu ever returned to New Zealand she could visit for a cup of tea and a hug, and talk about what happened. The woman and her husband bore no ill-will to Chu.
Judge Couch convicted her and disqualified her from driving in New Zealand for two years. He said: “There is nothing this court can do by way of sentencing to reduce the scale and impact on the victims of this family tragedy.”
He said Chu’s fault had been carelessness. “It is difficult if not impossible to deter carelessness by sentencing, because no-one ever means to be careless.”
The case already had enough denunciation and deterrence arising from the consequences of the conduct. “No further punishment is required,” he said.
Chu said in her statement to the court that she had now lost the two most important male figures in her life. Her father had arranged the New Zealand family holiday because she was still depressed and upset after her firefighter-policeman husband was killed in a motorcycle crash on the way home from work five years ago.
Mr Lucas said the crash had happened at the end of a 17-day New Zealand holiday when the family in the people-mover vehicle driven by Chu were about to reach Christchurch Airport to fly home.
“Apart from those last 30 minutes this was going to be a holiday that the whole Chu family would remember for the best reasons. Now they will remember it for the worst reasons.”
Chu’s brother had flown to New Zealand after the crash bringing money. His wife had flown home with Chu’s two children, who were now awaiting their mother’s return.
He told the court his sister was blaming herself. “I don’t want to see her traumatised any more as she has been punished by the loss of her father, and she still has children aged seven and nine to look after.”
He told the court: “I hope she can walk out from pain strong enough to continue her life’s journey.”